As Thanksgiving approaches, many times we find ourselves reflecting on our many blessings. And while this is a worthwhile exercise, it can be tough to find ways to teach kids to be thankful. With the holiday season comes the anticipation of fun activities and presents, so developing thankful kids in the midst of the holiday chaos can seem an impossible chore. However, raising thankful children is not something that should start and stop with the holiday season; rather, it’s an exercise that should last year-round. Celebrating Thanksgiving with kids by teaching them to be thankful is a great start, however, and these simple tips and ideas will help you begin.
Gather a branch or two from outside, and stick them in floral foam in a decorative pot or vase. Have your kids help you cut out paper leaves and attach ribbon or yarn loops to each one. Write a family member’s name on each leaf (this can include extended family, friends, or just those who live in your house) and hang them on your “tree.” Each night at dinner, before bed, or whenever you have your family time, select a leaf, read the person’s name aloud, and have each family member take turns naming one thing they’re thankful for about that individual. This is a great exercise for kids to learn about reflection and teaches kids how to be thankful for those in our daily lives.
With children (and adults!) it’s easy to go through life focusing on the disappointments and failures instead of the blessings. But by keeping the good things in a Family Thanksgiving Journal, you can reflect on all of the blessings that have happened in your family. Whether you choose a plain notebook or a calendar-style journal where you can record a blessing each day, make it a habit to write all of the special moments and triumphs in your journal as they happen. For young children, this can be as simple as getting to play at a favorite friend’s house or being chosen first in gym class. When times get hard or someone has a bad day, pull out the journal and reflect on all of the wonderful things you’ve been blessed with as a family.
Trade Disappointments for Blessings
It’s easy for children to get discouraged at the drop of a hat when things don’t go their way. From not being able to have another piece of candy to a rainy day spoiling outdoor fun, kids tend to have a short memory when it comes to the good things they’ve gotten to do or have. To teach kids to be thankful, make it a practice in your home to require your child to recite at least one blessing he’s had when he starts complaining about something. For instance, if he’s at the store and you won’t allow him to buy a toy, you might remind him about last month when he was able to use his birthday money to buy his now-favorite truck. Isn’t it great that he was given the money to buy such a fun toy?! And when he gets home, he’ll be able to play with it! Kids, like adults, need coaching in this area; focusing on the god doesn’t come naturally to most of us. But if you make it a family practice, you’ll find that the attitude of thankfulness comes more easily to your children and to you.